The Texas Division has been held in high esteem for some years now for its music and arts programs, which have seen the development of countless Salvationist musicians, not least through its renowned summer music conservatory and divisional music groups which have become a mainstay of the life of the Division. Intrinsically woven into the fabric of this heritage has been the Division’s Music and Arts Councils, which over the years has welcomed guest groups such as the Canadian and Chicago Staff Bands and the Brazil Territorial Band. This October saw the first such event for three years, and proved the perfect opportunity for the music department’s new team, headed and assembled by Divisional Music and Arts Director Matt Broome, to acclimatize and familiarize themselves with the Division’s music program and personnel.
Held at Camp Hoblitzelle, the home of so many significant musical events over the years, this year’s councils saw the participation of nine different corps groups, in addition to divisional ensembles. Several special guests brought with them a wealth of experience covering a wide spectrum of expression, including Majors Ian and Isobel Robinson (Mission Development Directors in the Southern California Division), Philip Broome (principal euphonium of the West Point Band), Bernie Dake (Assistant Territorial Music Secretary for the USA Southern Territory), Christopher Priest (Southern Territorial Director of Communications), and Jeff Cain (producer and engineer for numerous award-winning projects).
The Friday night general session gave opportunity for delegates to get to know each of the guests, as well as the new divisional music department team, through various testimonies, interviews and games. The duty band for the evening was Dallas Temple/Irving, whose items included Colne (Thomas Rive) and Stand firm in Christ (Andrew Wainwright), in addition to accompanying two duets: Jeff Crabtree and Sara Elliott (both members of the new divisional music team) in Brave and true (Erik Leidzén), and Philip Broome and Sara Elliott in I’ll not turn back (Ivor Bosanko). Philip Broome also displayed his fine technique in an intriguing euphonium solo entitled Hummingbrrd (Steven Bryant), which featured an electronic backing track.
The Saturday morning general session gave opportunity for corps groups to present items that they had prepared. In addition to this were corps spotlights, hosted by Bernie Dake, which gave section leaders the opportunity to discuss particular successes and challenges specific to their corps settings. These would often be accompanied by multimedia which gave added insight to the happenings at these various corps. What was particularly notable was the diversity of musical offerings, with brass bands, songster brigades, worship bands and even a handbell choir being featured.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of the divisional groups to come together in concert. With the logistical challenges of getting the groups together regularly for rehearsal in a division the size of Texas, it means get-togethers are generally limited to once a month, when groups converge at Camp Hoblitzelle for several hours of intense rehearsal. This meant preparation time for such a concert was limited, but all the groups coped admirably.
The 40-strong Divisional Band presented Steven Ponsford’s Fanfare to Worship and Morning Star (Ian Robinson), in addition to accompanying Philip Broome in a romp through Peter Graham’s Glorious Ventures. Texas Brass, the division’s top youth band, has recently returned from a trip to Paris. Two of the items it featured there were Andrew Mackereth’s Processional - Shine on us, and Erik Silfverberg’s Shalom, and so the audience was able to catch a glimpse of the band’s repertoire for that trip. The other divisional youth band featured was Lonestar Brass, led by Jeff Crabtree, which presented Come into His Presence (Robert Redhead). In addition to these items were Major Ian Robinson conducting the Divisional Band Chorus in his own song, Shout with joy, and then all three bands combining in another of his compositions, Victory Song, and Kevin Larsson’s ever-popular They shall come from the East. Divisional creative arts were also represented with Texas Creative Arts sharing the dance, One Word, and Lonestar Creative Arts with a dramatic presentation, Proverbs 31:17.
Saturday evening saw an event that many had been looking forward to for some time. For the last few months, the wheels have been in motion for a project requested by territorial leadership for a CD to be produced in a gospel/Latino style. Texas’ own Ronnie Murchison accepted the challenge, and the result was a CD entitled Break Through. It was decided the perfect event to host the CD release concert was Music and Arts Councils, and so it proved, with a number of the general public joining with the 200 or so already in attendance for the weekend. What followed was an inspirational evening of God-glorifying music.
Earlier in the day, in between general sessions, a number of masterclasses had been given by the special guests and members of the Music and Arts Department. These included Improving music performance through recording (Jeff Cain), Singing Company basics (Sara Elliott), Songsters and its relevance today (Christopher Priest), The WHOLE enchilada, a discussion on aspects of worship, holiness, obedience love and evangelism in regard to musicians and leaders (Majors Ian and Isobel Robinson), Worship planning (Bernie Dake), Basic composition/arranging (Andrew Wainwright), Creative arts in worship (Chloe Hu), Gospel Choir 101 (Ronnie Murchison), How to practice - solo and audition prep (Philip Broome), Innovative music programs on a limited budget (Jeff Crabtree and Sara Elliott), and Sound made simple (Bernie Dake), in which he presented best practices for audio/tech in worship.
Sunday morning worship was a time of reflection and renewal, enhanced by musical items including the Divisional Band’s presentation of Robert Redhead’s Reflections in Nature and Darren Shaw’s Guardian of my soul, while a massed songsters formed from many of the participants sang Take my life. Participants were challenged by words from Matt Broome, Commissioner John Wainwright (IHQ), who was visiting for the weekend, and Divisional Commander Lt. Col. Ken Luyk. Throughout the weekend Majors Ian and Isobel Robinson had blessed and challenged us with their devotional thoughts, and the message this morning, presented by Major Ian and entitled Soul Value, talked about the things in our lives that we attach most value to and what our priorities are. It gave us all food for thought as we returned to our corps, refreshed and renewed in our commitment to continue our service for the Lord.